South Africa v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Durban, 3rd day December 28, 2011

Chance for South Africa to do something special - Kirsten

35

South Africa will enter the last two days of the Boxing Day Test needing to achieve the highest successful fourth-innings chase to beat Sri Lanka in Durban, break a so-called jinx, and close out the series against Sri Lanka. It's a tall order for a line-up that was shot out for 168 in their first innings, against an attack that many rated as incapable of 20 wickets in a Test match.

With a task of this magnitude, South Africa can afford to be philosophical about what lies ahead. Gary Kirsten, the head coach, said one of the key things for them is simply to believe. "The one thing we do know is that it's an opportunity for someone to do something special and be a hero for their country," said Kirsten. "At the end of the day, we've got to dig ourselves out of this hole."

The hole was created by a poor first-innings effort with the bat, which showed a distinct lack of application by some of the side's most senior players, such as AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince. It was deepened by a lacklustre showing with the ball, in which the bowlers leaked 249 runs in the day, of which more than half came in the second session.

Sri Lanka scored 142 runs between lunch and tea and lost just two wickets. It was in that passage of play that Kumar Sangakkara came into his own and marched to his first century in the country as though he owned the place. Kirsten admitted the bowlers lost their way.

"We probably had a poor second session where we didn't really stick to our plans," he said. "We got a bit both sides of the wicket and we didn't do a good holding job. You'd like one of your seamers to be able to bowl one side of the wicket. They are all talented and skilled enough to do that."

"All these guys are capable of getting big scores. It's still a fairly good batting wicket. The pitch played pretty well today, which is a good sign."
Gary Kirsten

South Africa's lack of a containing bowler has been lurking as a problem since they dropped Paul Harris for Pakistan-born legspinner Imran Tahir. It did not stand up as a real concern when they were shooting sides out, like Australia for 47 in November and Sri Lanka for 180 and 150 in the last Test. In those instances, the attack was under no real pressure to stop the run flow, as they were today in Durban. When they were, Vernon Philander, who brought what Graeme Smith has called a "degree of control", had stepped in.

With the prolific wicket-taker, Philander, out of the side because of a knee injury, South Africa have no-one to stem the tide. Jacques Kallis was unable to, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Tahir were too focused on taking wickets, and Marchant de Lange was trying to repeat his heroics of the first innings while finding his feet. Too many short balls were wasted, too many boundaries were allowed to be scored and Sri Lanka were given enough rope to run away.

The lack of consistency in South Africa's performances is now glaring and Kirsten said they are trying to find a way to string together more than one strong showing. "What we've been trying to focus on is how we stack up the days and how we play the sessions," he said. "What is concerning for us all is that we can have two really good sessions and then have a blow out session. We need to focus on ways and means of stopping the bleeding."

There is little they can do to close the wound with the ball, so it will fall to the batsmen to do the repair job, something which seems fair, considering they are the chief cause of South Africa's current position. "You are always chasing the game when you get bowled out for a score like that," said Kirsten, adding a clean slate will be needed in the second knock. "We've got to look at it like a first innings, like you are setting up a total. All these guys are capable of getting big scores. It's still a fairly good batting wicket. The pitch played pretty well today, which is a good sign for the rest of the Test match."

Although deterioration of the surface is expected, Kirsten has to think positively because South Africa have to find some inspiration and he may be the man to provide it. Twelve years ago, he did something special at this ground. Kirsten made a then-South African record score of 275 to save the third Test against England. The Proteas need an effort which mirrors that one to win this match. "It's a great opportunity for someone to be a hero. These are the reasons why we play the game," he said. "I am still quite excited by what can come out of this Test match."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hhillbumper on December 29, 2011, 11:26 GMT

    looks like the Saffers are doing a good job of blowing this test again. Makes you wonder why England like Saffer players so much> maybe they don't get the chokers?

  • on December 29, 2011, 11:07 GMT

    well kirsten has been able to do nothing special since joining SA

  • on December 29, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    @ Kreacher_Rocks: just on a point of order, if SA do lose this test (and chasing a world record 4th innings total of 450, you would expect them to) it won't necessarily mean the test series is tied, as we have a third test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town and could easily win (or lose) the series 2-1.

  • bestbuddy on December 29, 2011, 9:39 GMT

    This is especially problematic when the plan is flawed. Watching smith and kirsten handle Tahir has been painful. Legspinners very rarely become containing bowlers, because the action means consistency is extremely hard to achieve. This means that if you play a leggie you have to back them. And you do that by attacking ie by setting a field that complements the aggressive bowling type. Smith though is putting a man on the fence immediately, and never having more than 2 catchers, even when we have a new batsman at the wicket. His field doesnt complement Tahirs aggression, and so relieves the pressure; there is always a run for the batsman, and no close fielder to take advantage of false shots. What may be most worrying though is some bowlers (read morkel mainly, but also steyn alot in the first innings) inability to put the game plan into effect;Morkels lack of consistency is down to 1 of 3 things; either his technique is flawed, he is not being coached correctly, or he is mentally weak

  • bestbuddy on December 29, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    With all due respect, SA's problem is not that they dont have a containing bowler. The best test teams in history did not have containing bowlers; they selected the 4 guy most likely to get them 20 wickets. The great west indies sides, the aussie side that dominated for 15 years did it through batsmen who dominated the opposition bowling attack, and bowlers who dominated the opposition batting. Even mcgrath, the so called 'containing' bowler took 563 wickets@21;Harris will NEVER give you that. The problem is not the aggression our bowling attack has.The problem (the main one) is the playing to a plan no matter what, instead of instilling good cricketing instincts and so playing to the current circumstances of the match. Our bowlers think 'the plan' is the be all and end all, and when it doesnt work instead of reverting to line and length, they try more and more different things, giving away runs and relieving pressure. to be continued...

  • on December 29, 2011, 8:28 GMT

    @hhillbumper - I'm rather glad you made this comment as it shows the totally stupidity of this entire choking discussion:

    "I feel a monumental choke coming on.The question is though which team will it be.Can Sri Lanka bowl well enough to get the Saffers out or will they do it by themselves?"

    Now how can it be possible for whomever loses to have choked?! By definition choking is meant to be losing from a position where 9 out of 10 you'd be expected to win.

    The same applies to all those who have made comments about SA choking. You may need to review your definition of what choking means. SA are expected to lose from here. It cannot possibly be called a choke if they do.

  • on December 29, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    @Kreacher_Rocks:

    Before you repeat the same thing on various threads you should check the facts. This is a three match series, there is still another on in CT. Of course, that could well end in a draw but you are jumping the gun a little by concluding that they would have drawn their last four home series.

    @Darren.Bush:

    Why is a dasher needed? There are plenty overs left and by my estimation they only need to score these runs at under 3 an over. Under the match average so far.

    @johnathonjosephs:

    Um, by all accounts this is a flat pitch so not sure you are really proving any point. Not sure how you conclude that overcast conditions make the pitch any different. Yes, the ball may do more through the air but it does not change a flat pitch!

  • on December 29, 2011, 7:37 GMT

    Gary Kirsten is a joker, you need to respect your opposition side.. Well said Sampath Chandrarathna... Now he must be wondering about SA A side to replace the current team.. !!!

  • rahulcricket007 on December 29, 2011, 7:20 GMT

    if i not wrong then the prevoius highest chase of 418 was made by west indies which batting contains name like gordon greenidge . desmond haynes , viv richards , clive lyod , kalicharan . i don't think sa had anybosy like those legends .

  • stormy16 on December 29, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    Firstly I dont beleive the chocker tag has any relevance here - the series is not lost! Next 400+ on this wicket against this SL attack is not beyond reach. Lets face it the SL's made 250 against the best bowling attack on this wicket yesterady so one would imagine SA would still back themselves. Its a mental thing from here- can SA be mentally strong against an attack that was dismiised (rightly so) before and after the last test. We will know how confident SL are this morning with the decleration decision.

  • hhillbumper on December 29, 2011, 11:26 GMT

    looks like the Saffers are doing a good job of blowing this test again. Makes you wonder why England like Saffer players so much> maybe they don't get the chokers?

  • on December 29, 2011, 11:07 GMT

    well kirsten has been able to do nothing special since joining SA

  • on December 29, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    @ Kreacher_Rocks: just on a point of order, if SA do lose this test (and chasing a world record 4th innings total of 450, you would expect them to) it won't necessarily mean the test series is tied, as we have a third test against Sri Lanka in Cape Town and could easily win (or lose) the series 2-1.

  • bestbuddy on December 29, 2011, 9:39 GMT

    This is especially problematic when the plan is flawed. Watching smith and kirsten handle Tahir has been painful. Legspinners very rarely become containing bowlers, because the action means consistency is extremely hard to achieve. This means that if you play a leggie you have to back them. And you do that by attacking ie by setting a field that complements the aggressive bowling type. Smith though is putting a man on the fence immediately, and never having more than 2 catchers, even when we have a new batsman at the wicket. His field doesnt complement Tahirs aggression, and so relieves the pressure; there is always a run for the batsman, and no close fielder to take advantage of false shots. What may be most worrying though is some bowlers (read morkel mainly, but also steyn alot in the first innings) inability to put the game plan into effect;Morkels lack of consistency is down to 1 of 3 things; either his technique is flawed, he is not being coached correctly, or he is mentally weak

  • bestbuddy on December 29, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    With all due respect, SA's problem is not that they dont have a containing bowler. The best test teams in history did not have containing bowlers; they selected the 4 guy most likely to get them 20 wickets. The great west indies sides, the aussie side that dominated for 15 years did it through batsmen who dominated the opposition bowling attack, and bowlers who dominated the opposition batting. Even mcgrath, the so called 'containing' bowler took 563 wickets@21;Harris will NEVER give you that. The problem is not the aggression our bowling attack has.The problem (the main one) is the playing to a plan no matter what, instead of instilling good cricketing instincts and so playing to the current circumstances of the match. Our bowlers think 'the plan' is the be all and end all, and when it doesnt work instead of reverting to line and length, they try more and more different things, giving away runs and relieving pressure. to be continued...

  • on December 29, 2011, 8:28 GMT

    @hhillbumper - I'm rather glad you made this comment as it shows the totally stupidity of this entire choking discussion:

    "I feel a monumental choke coming on.The question is though which team will it be.Can Sri Lanka bowl well enough to get the Saffers out or will they do it by themselves?"

    Now how can it be possible for whomever loses to have choked?! By definition choking is meant to be losing from a position where 9 out of 10 you'd be expected to win.

    The same applies to all those who have made comments about SA choking. You may need to review your definition of what choking means. SA are expected to lose from here. It cannot possibly be called a choke if they do.

  • on December 29, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    @Kreacher_Rocks:

    Before you repeat the same thing on various threads you should check the facts. This is a three match series, there is still another on in CT. Of course, that could well end in a draw but you are jumping the gun a little by concluding that they would have drawn their last four home series.

    @Darren.Bush:

    Why is a dasher needed? There are plenty overs left and by my estimation they only need to score these runs at under 3 an over. Under the match average so far.

    @johnathonjosephs:

    Um, by all accounts this is a flat pitch so not sure you are really proving any point. Not sure how you conclude that overcast conditions make the pitch any different. Yes, the ball may do more through the air but it does not change a flat pitch!

  • on December 29, 2011, 7:37 GMT

    Gary Kirsten is a joker, you need to respect your opposition side.. Well said Sampath Chandrarathna... Now he must be wondering about SA A side to replace the current team.. !!!

  • rahulcricket007 on December 29, 2011, 7:20 GMT

    if i not wrong then the prevoius highest chase of 418 was made by west indies which batting contains name like gordon greenidge . desmond haynes , viv richards , clive lyod , kalicharan . i don't think sa had anybosy like those legends .

  • stormy16 on December 29, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    Firstly I dont beleive the chocker tag has any relevance here - the series is not lost! Next 400+ on this wicket against this SL attack is not beyond reach. Lets face it the SL's made 250 against the best bowling attack on this wicket yesterady so one would imagine SA would still back themselves. Its a mental thing from here- can SA be mentally strong against an attack that was dismiised (rightly so) before and after the last test. We will know how confident SL are this morning with the decleration decision.

  • anver777 on December 29, 2011, 6:49 GMT

    No doubt !!!! a certain victory for SL !!!!!!

  • peter408 on December 29, 2011, 6:48 GMT

    great test match..jst a shame that so many south africans doesnt even care about it..

  • ramz_01 on December 29, 2011, 5:41 GMT

    Mr kirsten should cum out frm sleep i thnk.one chase ovr 400 doesnt means rsa cn chase anythn nd evrythn.wicket is totaly dirnt to perth nd slow too.anyway stil i cnt smileing da way SA commantaters planing to chase dis total nd the way stil talking abt australia test match.whn SL 5wkts down in 2nd inns they try to find russal arnold bt end of days play they 4gt da match nd talking abt pink ball 4 test matches.stil cnt stop smiling @robin jakman,wessales nd HD. :D

  • on December 29, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    Gary ... India miss your optimism right now...

  • TYJAY on December 29, 2011, 2:06 GMT

    Gary is trying his luck !!!

  • on December 29, 2011, 0:30 GMT

    hhhmmmmmm now its look like Sri Lankan A side more than enough for this so called South African team.......good lesson for who ever under estimate SL side........

  • prksinghg on December 29, 2011, 0:08 GMT

    in fact what kirstan is saying is not true at all. yesterday within last 15 overs or so we could clearly see some cracks starting to open up. In a bouncy pitch with cracks even dilshan and another spinner of that category going to be extremely dangerous. After new ball got bit older herath and dilshan may make maximum use of it and i think even 200 to 250 score is a more than a difficult task.

  • Kreacher_Rocks on December 28, 2011, 23:15 GMT

    As I pointed out on another thread, if SA does lose this match, they will have tied all their last 4 home series from the past 2 years 1-1 (against England, India, Australia and SL). @johnathonjosephs - Dhoni didn't make a century in any of the matches where SRT got a century against SA in SA. In particular, in the match where SRT got 146, Dhoni was out for a duck. Not sure why you are dragging in Tendulkar and Dhoni into a match between SL and SA, though.

  • Imran.Bush on December 28, 2011, 21:05 GMT

    Nice optimism Gary. It may be asking a lot of from this side which currently does not have a dasher, a la, Herchelle Gibbs, Virender Sewhag, etc.

  • johnathonjosephs on December 28, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    For all those complaining sanga and samaraweera were flat pitch players, what say you now? Especially on third day with extremely overcast conditions and Steyn/Morkel/De Lange bowling at least 140 kph to Sanga and co. In my opinion, a much more gutsy innings that the one Tendulkar played last time in which even Dhoni got a century on that placid pitch

  • charlie2921972 on December 28, 2011, 19:58 GMT

    Kirsten is expecting too much from his batsmen moreover when SL have chances of its extending the lead over 450 runs

  • Shanmughan on December 28, 2011, 19:40 GMT

    Even Gary Kirsten can't change South Africa's fortunes.Chokers are always chokers..!!

  • the_blue_android on December 28, 2011, 19:30 GMT

    Come back to us Gary! Come back to us Gary!

  • on December 28, 2011, 19:29 GMT

    This match can still be saved,pitch looks good for batting. But someone need to play a very big knock like 150+. Smith is the perfect man to do this.

  • Charindra on December 28, 2011, 19:25 GMT

    Errr Firdose, how about giving a bit of credit to Sri Lanka?? It looked like SL batted very sensibly without providing too many openings to SA bowling.

  • Tjoeps on December 28, 2011, 19:25 GMT

    It will indeed take something, or someone special to get us out of this hole.. Remember your knock well, and Darell's face when you lost your wicket... Is 'Brave cricket' still part of the plan? Stand up and be counted, anyone...

  • on December 28, 2011, 19:23 GMT

    I really don't know what to make of this team. Is the batting collapse part of the malaise brought about by 20/20 cricket? It seems like very few batsmen actually know how to build an innings in modern test cricket and the South Africans seem to be the worst at it.

    Also, I think it is time to blood some new batsmen. Only Amla seems to have the rigid discipline and fortitude to bat in the long form of the game consistently well. The rest seem to be particularly psychologically brittle. The selectors have shown the guts to select a new breed of fast bowlers and it has paid off great dividends. Time to show the same chutzpah with our batting selections.

  • manish666 on December 28, 2011, 19:14 GMT

    the tag CHOKERS was given to proteas for some reasons...and unfotunately they still every now and prove that they are WORTHY of the tag...

  • hhillbumper on December 28, 2011, 19:06 GMT

    I feel a monumental choke coming on.The question is though which team will it be.Can Sri Lanka bowl well enough to get the Saffers out or will they do it by themselves?

  • donda on December 28, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    It's time for Kallis to play long long innings to draw this match. If SA tries to win it they will lose it easily. Simply try to bat as long as possible.

    good job srilanka, lets see who wins.

  • SmellyCat on December 28, 2011, 18:59 GMT

    Easier said than done.. and knowing SA better than no other Kirsten is just trying to uplift. SA guys get over confident and cocky with initial successes and hence lose their way. They don't have the killer instinct nor do they have the resolve to withstand huge pressure. I think they'll choke with a couple of special performance here and there.

  • on December 28, 2011, 18:55 GMT

    I would say drop Kallis down to six, which would ensure stability for the middle and lower order. For the top order, there's plenty of experience and stability, if you will, because both Amla and de Villiers seem to be a good touch. Kallis, plus, is the only player capable of carrying the tail - if it goes that far, and there's a good chance that it will. The aim should be to separate the two players with poor form - Prince and Boucher, in this case. Batting order: Openers, Amla, AB, Prince, Kallis, Boucher, ...

  • nitsdcricketlover on December 28, 2011, 18:42 GMT

    these r games which is making test cricket more reverting...u would pay nything to come nd watch sangakkara socre such a superlative century...nd if der is one team in international cricket who cn chase dis score down its south africa...i m a 24 yr old indian who loves watching test cricket...by no means test is dying...

  • ratedstfu44 on December 28, 2011, 17:54 GMT

    saw the scorecard where KIRSTEN got 275 but England didnt have quality spinner , Here... Herath could be the biggest thread

  • Nuxxy on December 28, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    The real question for the batsmen is go for the win or play for the draw?

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Nuxxy on December 28, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    The real question for the batsmen is go for the win or play for the draw?

  • ratedstfu44 on December 28, 2011, 17:54 GMT

    saw the scorecard where KIRSTEN got 275 but England didnt have quality spinner , Here... Herath could be the biggest thread

  • nitsdcricketlover on December 28, 2011, 18:42 GMT

    these r games which is making test cricket more reverting...u would pay nything to come nd watch sangakkara socre such a superlative century...nd if der is one team in international cricket who cn chase dis score down its south africa...i m a 24 yr old indian who loves watching test cricket...by no means test is dying...

  • on December 28, 2011, 18:55 GMT

    I would say drop Kallis down to six, which would ensure stability for the middle and lower order. For the top order, there's plenty of experience and stability, if you will, because both Amla and de Villiers seem to be a good touch. Kallis, plus, is the only player capable of carrying the tail - if it goes that far, and there's a good chance that it will. The aim should be to separate the two players with poor form - Prince and Boucher, in this case. Batting order: Openers, Amla, AB, Prince, Kallis, Boucher, ...

  • SmellyCat on December 28, 2011, 18:59 GMT

    Easier said than done.. and knowing SA better than no other Kirsten is just trying to uplift. SA guys get over confident and cocky with initial successes and hence lose their way. They don't have the killer instinct nor do they have the resolve to withstand huge pressure. I think they'll choke with a couple of special performance here and there.

  • donda on December 28, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    It's time for Kallis to play long long innings to draw this match. If SA tries to win it they will lose it easily. Simply try to bat as long as possible.

    good job srilanka, lets see who wins.

  • hhillbumper on December 28, 2011, 19:06 GMT

    I feel a monumental choke coming on.The question is though which team will it be.Can Sri Lanka bowl well enough to get the Saffers out or will they do it by themselves?

  • manish666 on December 28, 2011, 19:14 GMT

    the tag CHOKERS was given to proteas for some reasons...and unfotunately they still every now and prove that they are WORTHY of the tag...

  • on December 28, 2011, 19:23 GMT

    I really don't know what to make of this team. Is the batting collapse part of the malaise brought about by 20/20 cricket? It seems like very few batsmen actually know how to build an innings in modern test cricket and the South Africans seem to be the worst at it.

    Also, I think it is time to blood some new batsmen. Only Amla seems to have the rigid discipline and fortitude to bat in the long form of the game consistently well. The rest seem to be particularly psychologically brittle. The selectors have shown the guts to select a new breed of fast bowlers and it has paid off great dividends. Time to show the same chutzpah with our batting selections.

  • Tjoeps on December 28, 2011, 19:25 GMT

    It will indeed take something, or someone special to get us out of this hole.. Remember your knock well, and Darell's face when you lost your wicket... Is 'Brave cricket' still part of the plan? Stand up and be counted, anyone...